A few weeks ago Graham and I were stood on Harberry Hill looking south across Teesdale. I could see the scar running beneath the scarp edge of Holwick Moor. I was trying to figure out how I had previously overlooked such a massive outcrop of limestone, Graham put me right ‘it’s the Whin Sill’..of course it is. On returning home my mind kept taking me back to the Scar, we decided to return.
There are reports of Shap Granite boulders on the seabed of the Tees Bay. These boulders were transported by a glacier during the Late Devensian glaciation about 30,000 years ago. They originate from a granite outcrop on the fells just south of the village of Shap in Cumbria.
Carboniferous Limestone – Alston Formation formed 337-328 million years ago
The road to Pateley Bridge was closed, the diversion sent me south along a series of narrow lanes. I followed an expensive-looking Audi coupe which was so wide that it struggled to stay on the lane without the outer wheels occasionally slipping into the ditch. The route eventually joined the Nidd Valley road, but instead of turning right towards Pateley Bridge the driver turned left, I guess he realised that perhaps the narrow lanes of the dales were not the right place for his oversized cruiser.
The Nidderdale road passes through a number of villages and hamlets, originally built to house workers from the flax mills and other works along the valley. The walls of many houses have had the black patina that forms on Millstone Grit walls cleaned away, this is a land of shiny Range Rovers and heritage paint. The Dales valleys have become a northern extension of Yorkshire’s golden triangle (Leeds-York-Harrogate). The average price of a house in the Dales is nearly forty percent higher than the average price of a house in Yorkshire.
Passing through Pateley Bridge and then up onto the moors. I’d arranged to meet Graeme at The Coldstones Cut. The Cut is a landscape sculpture and a viewing platform built to overlook the Coldstones Limestone quarry, the last working large limestone quarry in the district. I’ve passed this quarry many times and until recently was completely unaware of its existence.
The Cut was created by artist Andrew Sabin and opened in 2011. In his accompanying essay Sabin references the citadel of Mycenae, which I completely get. He also discusses the nature of the path through the site, this had baffled Graeme and I on our visit, why did the path through the work resemble a modern road? why the yellow lines and bollards?
The base of the Cut is adorned with the dressing of modern towns and the paraphernalia of contemporary streetscapes and rightly so because the pit that lies at the end of the Cut was formed to supply the road builders and landscape makers of 20th century Britain.
Despite the minor inconvenience of swarming small insects, we both enjoyed wandering around the Cut. The jumbled stones at the foot of the path and the weird bicycle sculpture seemed a bit out of place but in fairness to Andrew Sabin these were not part of his design. The crowning glory of the Cut is of course the drama of quarry and the landscape beyond.
Whilst at the Cut we could see the outline of this beautiful water tower in the distance, we had to pay it a visit.
Once home I began to reflect on how the operators of the quarry have recognised that their site has value and interest to the wider community. They have explored ways to allow people to engage with not only the quarry but also with the wider landscape and history of the district. This approach is the polar opposite to the situation that we currently have on Teesside where a publicly funded development corporation are taking a year zero approach to a vast steelworks site with the full support of their appointed heritage taskforce. This has resulted in historical and culturally important elements of the site being lost forever.
Driving through Dalehouse today I spotted this lovely Shap Granite erratic. I got talking to the man whose land it is on and he told me that he had brought it up from the valley bottom. He also told me of a neighbour who had dragged an even larger boulder of the same rock type into his garden and was using it as a healing stone, apparently he sits on it for a period of time and it eases his aches and pains. I asked the man whether he had any similar experiences with his stone, he said that he hadn’t, the only thing he had noticed was that passing dogs enjoyed cocking their legs against it.